Johanns joins protest against EPA land use theory

By Nicholas Zeman | June 09, 2009
Posted June 24, 2009

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) sent a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson last Thursday criticizing EPA's indirect land use modeling, which has an impact on the implementation of RFS2.

"According to this theory, an increase in production of biofuels in the United States results in decreased grain exports to other countries, which in turn leads those countries to cut down their forests to plant more crops," Johanns stated in an official release. "However, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has actually decreased since U.S. [biofuels] production began to increase significantly in 2005."

Also, Johanns requested that the public comment period regarding implementation of RFS2 be extended by 120 days. "I hope that the outcry from industry helps the cause to modify the implementation of RFS2," said Debbie Borg, president of the Nebraska Soybean Association. "Sen. Johanns joining in is very welcomed because he is a former Secretary of Agriculture with a lot of experience and credibility in this area."

"The bottom line is this-the theory connecting [biofuels] production to changes in land use thousands of miles away is fundamentally flawed," Johanns said. "Even worse, the methods EPA wants to use are unscientific, unsubstantiated and not based on facts. If EPA incorporates indirect land use in this manner when implementing the RFS, it will be very costly for farmers…and could actually increase our dependence on foreign energy."

From 2001 to 2004-the time period EPA used to conduct their analysis-there was very little biofuels production, Borg said. "That's one of the biggest problems that we see," she told Biodiesel Magazine. "Why use a period with very little renewable fuels production as a basis to make predictions about future land use change?"

Borg, a "no till" farmer, said that EPA is also not considering the improvements in techniques and technologies that agriculture has made in recent years in the modeling process involving projections about indirect land use. No till farmers do not remove harvest residues like corn stalks or bean stubble, which benefits the soil and helps with carbon sequestration.

"That's important because EPA wants cellulosic ethanol, but cellulosic ethanol is going to be made from corn stalks among other things," Borg said. "Recent research from Agriculture and Agrifood Canada claims that removing this material has negative soil impacts. So according to EPA, everything we're doing is wrong."
 
 
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